October 23, 2013 – Loi Kroh Stadium, Chiang Mai
I was a little disappointed when I figured out that I wasn’t fighting with some of the boys from our camp. I’d miscalculated the date when Den told me I was fighting again on Wednesday and thought I was being added to a card that Off and Neung were already on, but it turned out they were scheduled at a different stadium on the next night, so I was alone after all. No matter – I fight alone a lot.
This was my 4th fight in 13 days and in the strangest way the proximity of fights actually made time seem much longer. I’d fought on Sunday, so I trained half of Monday and twice – although shorter sessions – on Tuesday. But even those two days felt very long so that by the time I was getting ready to fight on Wednesday night I was thinking to myself how long it felt since my last fight.
At the venue I got a lot of support from Thai men who frequent the Muay Thai scene around Chiang Mai. There’s this small guy who wears a leather hat and I believe is a bookie. He was sitting with a large westerner at a bar next to the place where we hang out before the fights and he saw me walking by and called to me by name. He then pointed at me and then put his hands up in fists, the universal sign-language of, “are you fighting tonight?” I smiled and said yes, then handed him my program to show him I was the fifth fight of the night. He patted me on the shoulder and gave me a thumbs up with the other hand. When I checked in with the doctor I was surrounded by officials and they all smiled at me as the doctor told me in Thai how strong I am and to fight well. I felt very included and they seemed genuinely enthused by my fight rate.
Here’s the thing about this frequency in fighting. It’s something that I can only do in Thailand – I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where it’s possible, simply for even having fight events often enough that one could fight this many times, let alone have opponents ready. And it’s unusual for a westerner to take advantage of this opportunity, so even though my Thai trainers grew up fighting very often – maybe not every three days all the time, but every now and again the fights cluster together like this – they are nonetheless taken by my ability and perhaps more so my desire to fight this much. That said, I’m not special – as it turns out the opponent I fought on Sunday night had another fight on Tuesday. She probably wasn’t at the tail end of four fights the way I was, but it doesn’t matter – she’s probably done this a bunch of times. The point is that I can’t get all hyped on myself about fighting every three days when the Thais do it all the time without making any kind of big deal about it. It’s exciting for me, for my own experience, but it’s extraordinary because I’m maybe the only non-Thai doing this, not the only person doing this. But that fact motivates me because Muay Thai here is a way of life and it’s a job. Treating it like a job, like work, is a strongly Thai experience and attitude.
After my last fight I wanted to “get off the porch”, so to speak. I’d stayed on the outside far too much, mainly due to the size of my opponent last time. This opponent was closer to my size and I noticed right away she was southpaw, so I wanted to use right-side attacks. Unfortunately, I was making some mistakes in my form that made a lot of what I was trying to do kind of feeble, but at least my opponent wasn’t taking great advantage of the errors in my form. But I did get my jab going a little bit, which I’m happy about.
In round 2 she came after me with low kicks, pretty much aiming for my calf. If I’d had myself together a little more I could have blocked hard and punished her for it, but I think that because I have been fighting with tender shins for the past week I was kind of shying away from it, which is the opposite of what is actually protective for the shins. But at 0:22 in round 2 I get a nice bounce off the rope with a teep, followed by a knee and right cross. It’s a combination! And two of the strikes land! Cool. She was great at jumping in the clinch, which looks really good; I’m good at kneeing in the clinch, which may or may not look good but it definitely puts dings in the gas-tank of my opponents. I should jump though – it’s kinda cocky. I got her with a knee to the sternum right as the bell rang, which definitely affected her coming into round 3.
She starts out round 3 trying to keep me off of her, which she hadn’t spent much effort doing before. So I knew she was tired. I’m not entirely sure where I hit her at 0:34 to knock her down – I honestly just don’t remember – but I was so embarrassed by watching the video of my last fight when I thought I’d run in to finish her off and was actually speed walking like a jackass, I wanted to avoid recreating that with this fight and prepared myself to come in hard if she made it through the 8 count. She’s badass, so she was ready to go again. (I still speed walked like a jackass, but at least it was a shorter distance and didn’t look quite as lame. I’m going to run and slam into Den all week to fix this; he’s been making fun of me for this for a while and I just didn’t know how bad it was until I actually saw it on video. Now he’s got even more ammunition, as if he needed it.) I think it’s around 0:57 that she hits me with her left elbow. My right hand is down as I’m coming in and she just comes across nice with her strong-hand elbow. I’m not positive that’s it because I can’t remember when exactly she hit me, but it was very late in the fight and I thought actually that she’d cut me and I wanted to finish the fight quickly, which I was able to do a few seconds later with another knee.
This elbow wasn’t super strong in terms of form – it’s amazing what you can do with not a great deal of impact, going to show that a proper elbow is just a beautifully harsh weapon. But she wasn’t “lucky,” she timed that elbow and hit me with it as I was coming in. I’m lucky that it didn’t cut. But my forehead got so swollen, the term “mouse” for a knot on the forehead wasn’t big enough – Kevin said I had a whole rat on my head. I didn’t really feel it so much but Den immediately started pressing it with ice the very moment I got out of the ring. I went to take a photo with my opponent because I really liked her – she was scrappy and fought hard, even when she was tired. It wasn’t until after this that I actually touched my forehead with my hand and felt how big the knot was. It was the size of my cupped hand, filling the whole thing like half of a tennis ball. It was huge.
I did my best to keep the ice on my forehead, even though it was giving me brain freeze to do so. I got to see some people I know from Chiang Mai, just through my fight page and them attending my fights a few times, Quin and Jay from Canada. It’s nice to have support from people, simply doing what I love.
I got the swelling down pretty well over the next few hours and the next day it was far less, but still noticeable enough that I wore a hat around to keep the locals from overreacting. Now, two days later all the fluid from the bump has drained down (yay gravity!) to form a very dark black eye on my upper eyelid. It looks like club makeup, but only on one side. Muay Thai is so fashionable right now.
me and my wonderful opponent Hongfaa
Jay and Quin with me after the fight
unwrapping the hands